Some people swear by them; others swear at them. Cities and counties have designated land to be used solely for the purpose of providing an area for you to exercise your dog off-leash. Is taking your pooch to a park for dogs good or bad? Let's examine some pros and cons of The Great Dog Park Debate.
* FREEDOM - Inside the fence of a gated dog park, your dog can roam off of your leash while you know it is safe. Dog parks are ideal for dogs who are high-strung and don't walk well on a leash, yet they love to walk with you and need the exercise. This describes our dog, Baily, to a T.
* SOCIALIZATION - Dogs want the company of other dogs. At a dog park, they encounter a variety of dogs during every visit. At the dog park we frequent, our dog, Bingo, has been nicknamed "The Mayor" because he goes up to every dog he meets and talks to them. If he could, he'd shake their paws.
* EXERCISE - Both you and your dog benefit from walking around the park. This is a win-win situation!
* MENTAL STIMULATION - Not only will your dog benefit from the physical exercise, but also from engaging all of the senses as it sees, hears, sniffs, touches and yes, tastes what the park has to offer that day.
* NO WATER - Dogs need to have drinking water available all the time. If the dog park doesn't have a fountain or spigot available, you'll need to carry in water for your dog or keep it in your vehicle. Also, be careful if the park includes a pond of stagnant water because your dog can become ill after drinking from the pond.
* FEES - Dog parks need constant maintenance. Somebody has to groom the walking trails and empty the garbage cans. Many require you to buy a one-time use fee or a yearly permit. You must display proof of a paid daily pass or yearly permit, usually in your vehicle's front window. The fine for not buying a pass or permit is often a lot more than the pass is in the first place, so pay the fee.
* NO SUPERVISION - This is the biggest objection to dog parks by dog owners. Vets have stated that they love dog parks because the parks keep them in business. Dog fights do break out in dog parks and injuries can occur. Big dogs can target little dogs or younger dogs - bullies do exist in the canine world just as they do in the human world. Dog owners need to stay with their dogs and watch them as much as possible, not simply stand around talking with each other and ignoring their dog's behavior. There are heavy fines and severe consequences for aggressive dogs, so it is in your best interest to monitor your dog's behavior at all times within the park.
We love the off-leash dog park in our community. What do you think? Weigh in on The Great Dog Park Debate and tell us about your dog park experience.
Jane Hoffmann is a retired middle school teacher, professional soprano soloist and author of 31 books for teachers to use in their classrooms, as well as a devoted dog mom for over 20 years.